Founding of Women's American ORT
October 12, 1927
In a Brooklyn kitchen on October 12, 1927, Anna Boudin, Mrs. Jacob Panken and Florence Dolowitz organized the first meeting of the Women’s American ORT (WAO). Originally founded in Tsarist Russia in the 1880s, ORT (the Russian acronym stands for Organization for the Distribution of Artisanal and Agricultural Skills) was intended to provide vocational training to help impoverished Russian Jews become more economically self-sufficient.
The American arm of ORT, founded in 1922, was only open to men. Dolowitz and Boudin, who were married to ORT officers, founded WAO to assist in funding ORT programs intended to help Eastern European Jews devastated by World War I. Starting with fundraising concerts and bazaars, WAO grew in response to the rise of Nazism and the plight of Jewish refugees.
Women’s American ORT became an independent organization in 1940, helping to fund International ORT’s growing number of vocational high schools in Europe, India, Israel, and North Africa. Today WAO focuses primarily on fundraising for ORT schools and programs around the world, including schools in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. These programs help disadvantaged individuals and communities become self-sufficient by providing education and training in employment skills. The organization also maintains a public policy platform advocating quality public education, increased literacy, women’s rights, the separation of church and state, the elimination of anti-Semitism, and the fostering of Jewish communities worldwide.
Sources: www.ortamerica.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_hist_becom_wao; Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia pp. 1490-1493.